Witness 1920 1280 Jane Hammons

Three bald women rear-end me.

The driver springs over her convertible door, runs to my car, arms flung wide as though to embrace.

I stumble out. Dazed. My door a heavy Ford.

She reaches me, arms fall to her side. Our father she wails and I think perhaps her baldness signifies religion and I am meant to pray Who art in heaven.

Then she adds died. And. We just learned. We are on our way.

In the car: two more bald women—Our father one repeats—supplicant arms held high. Tearstained faces.

I am on my way, too. I don’t mean to mock—I, too, have just learned many times over the years of death—I just mean to respond, to state my situation.

The sun the leaves the clouds cast playful tattoo patterns atop her head.

Trapped in some sort of performance art on Hopkins St. in Berkeley, California, on my way to Monterey Market for fruits and vegetables, my cervical vertebrae miscues my brain, and I consider not the pain singing in my neck but rather my hair. Uncombed plentiful far less intentional than baldness.

We inspect my bumper. Like cheese from a grater shredded metal hangs. We speak of repair but exchange no information—names, insurance—for follow-up.  Damage clear but nothing compared to a dead father.

That assessment made remains unspoken.

We depart, leave the scene. The bald woman with her car full of sisters keeps a discrete distance, making a left before we come to the red light where I brace for impact.

I return from the market with a bouquet of sunflowers, three mangos, some onions and an avocado. I observe from the opposite side of the street the tread marks, evidence of my foot on the brake, my car pushed forward past STOP into the intersection, lucky, I think for the first time. No oncoming traffic. I pull to the curb, park, walk across the street to inspect the black path, about three feet long.

A young man who often sits at that corner of Hopkins and Gilman selling bags of oranges and crates of strawberries says, She hit you hard, and from his back pocket takes a crumpled piece of notebook paper, displaying the information I failed to get, sidetracked by bald heads and the play of light upon one of them and the arrangement and postures of women weeping in a vintage red Mercedes Roadster.

My neck is sore. My back aches.


I read aloud the license plate, playing out the ommmmm2U as it might be said in prayer or meditation. The young man walks away. I buy a crate of strawberries. The notebook paper sits for years in my glove compartment, witness testimony to something that happened one day when I was on my way.

Header photo © S. Schirl Smith.

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